5 Water Policy Questions

lawn sprinklers in actionThe mandatory water restrictions have arrived, and the local officials are serious about fining the offenders.  I liked this element of the Mayor’s statement: “Don’t call the police on your neighbor’s sprinklers until you’ve reminded them about the water restrictions.  Maybe they just forgot.”  Other than enjoying that utterly civil and reasonable request, my friends and I debate the efficacy of the various measures in play here.

 Question: if you are only allowed to water every other day instead of everyday (divvied up by even and odd house numbers), won’t folks just water twice as long on the days they can?  Hmmmm.  Likely.

Which begs the second question: is that better or worse than the everyday method?  Actually, I think it might be better.  A longer watering sinks deeper into the soil, getting the water to the roots of the plants before the sun and wind have a chance to exact their evaporation tariffs on the volume.  What doesn’t get pulled up by the plants be added to the groundwater supply.

That said, there is little to nothing growing in the gardens here that even needs the every other day dousing.  Grass roots grow deep and are encouraged to do so by the need to find water.  If you water your lawn every day (or even every other day), you are encouraging your grass roots to be lazy and stay up near the surface.  Turn the water off for that grass and it has a back up plan that’s only a 1 or 2 deep.

Question 3: Are gardens included?  Not all pigs is pigs. Should there be water restrictions on the watering of the flower gardens?  Yeah, I lean that way.  Should there be watering restrictions about watering my kale, beans, tomatoes, etc?  I was not planning on eating my lawn, ever.  But I am indeed planning on eating my garden, in which case the amount of water it takes to drop a portion of a bucket of water on each plant each morning has got to be better for the environment than my buying a tomato from the market that somebody else watered and then shipped here.

Question 4: Are there grants and programs in play that help fund the installation of rain barrels?

And last but not least: there an “incentive” built in our water bills to keep the water use low, the question is: is it reasonable?  After the first ~6,000 gallons, your rates go up.  6,000 gallons?? Given that the cost goes up by about $0.70, I’m thinking that threshold is way to high to impact behavior much.  Set it at 4000, encourage people to think about it, and then knock it up $1 every 1500 gallons.

According to the United Nations, the US uses more water per person per day than anywhere else in the world, more than twice what Norway, France, Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Peru use, and nearly 4 times as much as the UK.  I pretty sure we can do better, a lot better, especially when we’re in a drought.

Platte River drought 2012

Where you see grass is supposed to all be underwater.


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